Friday, January 13, 2012

Contenders or Pretenders?

Thursday night was a rather interesting night with five games involving New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects. That was a wild shootout and "message game" in the QMJHL, two one goal games in the OHL and in case of the rich getting richer in the WHL.

We have to start with a key matchup in the OHL as Ryan Strome and his Niagara IceDogs took on the Barrie Colts. The two teams are fighting for the the top spot in both the OHL's Eastern conference as well as the lead in the Central Division.

Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) set up Freddie Hamilton for the go-ahead goal at 12:07 of the third as Niagara edge Barrie 2-1 for the ice dogs third straight win. It was Strome's 20th assist of the season and it helps Niagara pulled within two points of central division leader Brampton was idle.

Strome now has a four game scoring streak going (2-7-9) as he improves to 17–20–37 on the season. Fellow Islander prospect Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row.

In Peterborough, the Petes were hosting the Kitchener Rangers in the aftermath of what was an unpopular trade by the Petes involving one of their top players. Currently the Petes sit in seventh of the OHL season conference holding onto a slim two-point lead over Mississauga but at the same time also trail fourth-seeded Barrie by three points.

Kitchener earned a 2-1 win over the Petes behind a two-goal second period and then play of their goalie Frankie Palazzese who stole the show stopping 38 of 39 shots. Ranger prospects Andrew Yogan (NYR 2010 3rd) and Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) were both scoreless in his matchup.

Ceresnak took a holding penalty in the second period and led to Kitchener's first goal of the game.

In the QMJHL, we were treated to a taste of what might happen at the 2012 Memorial Cup as the 2011 Memorial Cup winners, the Saint.John Sea Dogs hosted the Shawinigan Cataractes will be hosting the 2012 Memorial Cup.

The Cataractes entered this game trailing the Sea Dogs by two points in the race for first place in the QMJHL and was interesting because both teams added couple of key players for the playoff run.

The defending champions added Charlie Coyle via Team USA and Boston University while the Cataractes were debuting defensemen Brandon Gormley who they acquired in a trade last week. If you don't know who Gormley is; he was only voted the best defensemen at the just concluded World Under 20 championships.

The Cataractes struck first when Kirill Kabanov (NYI 2010 3rd) set up Michael Chaput for the game's opening goal at 7:40 of the first period. It was Kabanov's 17 assist of the season and 31st point.

While Saint John did tie the score almost 3 minutes later; the Cataractes took control in the second and third periods to learn a 4-1 win. Kabanov actually had a pretty good evening as he got off six shots including three really good scoring chances.

We have a feeling we will be seeing these two teams in both the QMJHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup.

And it's almost funny that we went from a really good well played game to pond hockey as Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his Baie-Comeau Drakkar took on the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The Armada somehow was able to eke out a 7-6 win over the Drakkar.

How many different ways forFinally in the WHL we had one game featuring Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings as they were on the road facing the Medicine Hat Tigers. Our interest wasn't really on Michael St. Croix but rather the newest member of the Oil Kings, Henrik Samuelsson.

Samuelsson the son of former Ranger Ulfie was actually returning to North America to play after starting the season in Sweden. Samuelsson is 6'2 192 lb right wing who can also play center.

We won't kid ourselves as clearly this was a move by Samuelsson to improve his draft status. The midseason CSB rankings had Samuelsson ranked as the 33rd European skater.

Returning to North America where Samuelsson played for the USNTDP teams the last couple of seasons should help improve his draft value especially playing on team like the Oil Kings.

The Oil Kings scoring three times in 4:13 at the end of the second period; turned a 2-2 game into a 5-2 lead after two periods. Michael St.Croix did not score for the the oil Kings in this one and they really did not need his offense.

The Oil Kings with the win now have a 4 game unbeaten streak; they also increased their lead over second-place Moose Jaw to six points. this game to be wild? In the first period we had four goals scored in about 5 minutes, then 2 goals 10 seconds. Then we saw 4 consecutive power-play goals and the Drakkar still had a chance to tie the game up in last minute.

This was definitely not a game for your penalty kill as the two teams combined to go five for six on the evening. In the end the fans can't say that they didn't get their monies worth out of this one.

(Strome – Aaron Bell– OHL images, Kabanov – Ron Morin/Lewiston Maineaics)

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